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Kettlebells: LESS Reps = MORE Fat Loss

Kettlebells: LESS Reps = MORE Fat Loss

by: Chris Lopez, CSCS, SFGII

Master Turbulence Trainer


 The big farce in the fitness industry today is that you need to do a whole load of reps to increase your metabolism, burn calories and eventually burn fat.

It sounds counter-intuitive but if you take a look at all the gym-goers that do  countless reps with little mini-weights – kettlebells included – you’ll see that there is no real change in their bodies.

They’re still fat or even worse, they look like they’ve lost weight but are softer than the Pilsbury Dough Boy.

Not only that, but doing countless reps without paying attention to form (and who really pays attention when you’re on your 5th set of 25?) can really create the potential for getting injured.

And NOTHING stalls the fat loss progress of your clients and campers like not being able to do anything (like when you’ve hurt yourself because you didn’t pay attention to technique).

In fact, just being able to move well can be the real difference between losing inches and staying the same and getting injured.

So I have a question for you…

Are you programming to “chase reps”?

Just because a program says that you need to do 25 reps of anything, do you force those reps no matter what?  Even if you see that form starts to go down the toilet.

Did you know that this can stall fat loss results or stop them altogether?

I’ll give you the perfect example and I’m going to throw my wife “under the bus” to prove my point.

My wife trains with kettlebells.

We’ve tweaked her program a little and I’m really focusing on helping her dial in her form now…and since she lives with a pretty good instructor (that’d be me, folks), she’s intent on listening.

This morning she was going through a swing session and we made one really IMPORTANT change to her swing (and her mentality to when she approaches her swing training).

You see, she was chasing reps.  It was obvious because she was huffing & puffing, her shoulder was disconnected with the rest of her body and her kettlebell – which provides incredible feed back – was wobbly on the finish.

After further investigation, it was because she was following what seemed like a logical progression, but she wasn’t at that level yet.


Here’s what I mean…

Her program required her to do 10 x 1-arm swings per side at the top of every minute.

So every time the clock hit :00, she would start her set.  Then when she was done, she would rest for the remainder of the minute.

Her protocol was to do that for 10 minutes.

But, like I said, she was chasing reps and was more focused on just getting through the set than on making sure each rep was perfect.

So I had her cut down to 8 swings per side and had her change her grip so that her shoulder started to look more packed.

But still, it wasn’t right.

So we dropped it down to 6 per side and I asked her to focus on breathing “behind the shield” on her finish giving a powerful “tsssshup” as the kettlebell and her arm reached parallel to the ground.  

On the finish, she focused on rooting by locking her knees out, squeezing her butt, bracing her abs and dropping her shoulders down and back.

And then I asked her to fire her lat and throw the kettlebell through her knees on the back swing.

Guess what happened?

A more powerful and fluid swing with VISIBLE moments of tension & relaxation – just like a wave.

Her swing got stronger.

What she also noticed was that even though I cut her volume by 40% (remember she went from 10 per side to 6 per side), she felt like her cardiovascular system was more challenged than when she was doing 10.

Read that again please…

We cut her training volume by 40%, but the INTENSITY increased.

We got her better results by DOING LESS reps.

Why?  Because we focused more on being connected with the kettlebell and creating tension in her body.

You create tension by contracting as many muscles as possible at the same time.

And when you contract lots of muscles, you use A LOT of energy (ie. calories).

And when you use a lot of calories, you create a metabolic disturbance in your body.

Metabolic disturbance = FAT LOSS.

All of this, by doing LESS.

And even though my wife felt more cardiovascularly challenged, she was doing less and therefore had MORE TIME to rest between sets.

This resulted in high intensity sets EVERY TIME she performed the swings.

So now, she can build her cardiovascular system with more intense swings.  She’s at 6 now, but in a few weeks she’ll be back at 10 but with a more intense, powerful swing.

So let’s sum up the lessons here…

1. Don’t chase reps.  Ask your clients and campers to focus on technique and tension (intensity). Doing this will not only allow them to burn more fat, but they’ll get stronger and stay injury free since they won’t be chasing a number.

2. Remember to cue them that the kettlebell like an extension of their bodies.  It’s not external resistance like a dumbbell.  Have them direct the energy of their swing to the horizon.

  1. Be patient – both you as the trainer and them as your campers & clients.  Progress logically and safely and don’t be afraid to take a step back to dial things in properly.  PRACTICE, don’t “workout”

Training should be about intent and focus and should make your clients better functioning humans.

It’s not about chasing unrealistic numbers to no end.

Save that for the softies with the little weights.


Chris Lopez is a StrongFirst Level 2 and an RKC Level 2 kettlebell instructor (one of only 6 in all of Canada).  He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Guelph and a CSCS designation from the NSCA.  He is currently a Course Conductor and Master Trainer with The Turbulence Training Transformation Certification.  Read more about Chris and kettlebells at http://georgettepann.com/TTKBell, an online resource for Hardstyle Kettlebell Training and Physical Culture or on his personal blog at www.FitAndBusyDad.com.  Chris lives in Toronto with his wife and their 5 kids

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